Young Cardinals to be tested early
There has been a constant goal for Matt Walter’s Cardinals over his 14 years as head coach: Get to the section championship game and win it.
“Our goal is to be playing our best football at the end of the year and to try to make a run in the sections. If we win enough games and they want to hand us a trophy at the end of the (conference) year, we’ll take it, but that’s not what we’re shooting for,” Walter said.
Annandale has made that goal a reality in recent years by reaching the section championship the past three seasons, coming away with two victories. The Cardinals fell in a 66-46 shootout to the eventual Class 3A state runner-up and conference foe New London-Spicer in last season’s final.
The loss ended the Cardinals’ season with an overall record of 7-4. Those four losses were all to Wright County Conference squads (Glencoe-Silver Lake, NL-S, Hutchinson and Delano), who all advanced to the state tournament.
The Cardinals have their work cut out for them to reach the section championship this season. They return just one starter on offense: running back Spencer Ogden (6-foot-2, 210 pounds), who could get the bulk of the carries.
Ogden rushed for 324 yards and two touchdowns last season and was a participant in the state wrestling tournament at 195 pounds.
“I feel like people are going to fill in a lot better as we go along,” Ogden said of the new faces on offense. “We don’t have that (many) big linemen so we’re not going to be able to power drive. We’re going to just have to use our speed.”
Ogden, who would like to play college football, has been in contact with Upper Iowa and St. Cloud State. Joining Ogden in the backfield will be senior Austin Kalla (5-10, 180 pounds), and junior Brett Wadman (5-8, 160).
Junior Brock Fobbe (5-11, 155) will move from safety, where he started as a sophomore, and take the reins at quarterback. Fobbe replaces Riley Atkinson, who threw for 2,128 yards and 20 touchdowns as a senior last season.
“(Fobbe) is coming along fine, he’s looked good. He’s a little bit smaller than what we’ve had in the past, so we’re going to try to get him out of the pocket a little bit more and let him be an athlete,” Walter said.
Ogden, Kalla and Jake Laudenbach will be the linebacking corps, and senior cornerback Spencer Haag returns on a defense that coach Walter thinks will be improved from last season.
“They (Fournier, Laudenbach and Ogden) saw significant time on defense last year,” Walter said. “We’re small at linebacker, but I think we’re quick there.
“Austin Kalla is going to be a good football player for us; he went down with a knee injury in week six last year, but he’s back 100 percent.”
Haag and his teammates are drawing on the experience they gained over the past few seasons to help combat some of the turnovers coming into this year.
“Just seeing the enthusiasm all those guys had on the field helped a lot, and it shows that even a little town like ours can make it if you put in the work,” Haag said.
The Cardinals will face some strenuous opposition early in their schedule. Conference matchups against Hutchinson and Orono in the first two weeks of the season will be a good test.
Hutchinson capped off an undefeated season (13-0), with a 49-7 rout over Holy Angels to capture the Class 4A state title last season.
Orono (7-3) reached the Section 5- 4A semifinals where the Orioles were edged by Becker 28-26.
“We play a lot of big teams with big lines, so we need to be physical with them and bring that to the postseason,” Kalla said.